Mall may get another face-lift Parts of Westview would be replaced by strip stores


November 10, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The owners of Westview Mall are going back to the future with plans to tear down parts of the mall and rebuild strip stores similar to the ones that occupied the site 40 years ago.

Baltimore County officials gave a preliminary nod to the renovation yesterday, hoping to restore life to the 42-acre site at the Baltimore Beltway and U.S. 40.

Fairfax, Va.-based Peterson Cos., one of the Washington area's largest privately owned retail developers, is proposing to tear down a long-vacant Caldor's department store, the former Planet Music Store and a parking garage, and build a free-standing home improvement business. The $10 million renovation project also calls for tearing down parts of the mall's east end and building a strip of two or three stores apart from the mall.

The renovation would be the second face-lift for the 700,000-square-foot mall in the past six years.

"I hate the idea of tearing down something that is less than 10 years old," said Taylor O. Chess, vice president of retail management for Peterson, which bought the property in November.

But Chess said the trend among retailers is to occupy strip shopping centers that give them greater visibility and flexibility than a mall.

Westview Mall originally opened in 1958 as Westview Shopping Center, and later was converted to an enclosed mall.

Previous owner Balcor Development Co. of Chicago spent $20 million to renovate the mall in 1992, but business has dwindled and Marshall's, T. J. Maxx and many small, local retailers have left during the past three years.

"The mall has suffered," said Donald T. Rascoe, development manager for the county Office of Permits and Development Management.

The mall is about 40 percent vacant, although anchors Value City and the 10-screen United Artists theaters remain strong, said Chess.

Although Peterson is primarily a builder of new retail centers, the company was attracted to the mall's location, which abuts the beltway at U.S. 40, Chess said.

Peterson has spent months trying to attract anchors, including Lowe's Companies Inc., a home improvement retailer that is seeking to expand in the Baltimore market. No agreement has been reached with Lowe's yet, although over the summer, the mall gained mid-size tenant Jeepers! Inc., a Boston-based chain of amusement-themed restaurants targeted to children.

Chess said work on the renovation would not begin until anchor tenants are signed.

According to the drawings submitted to the county, the home improvement business would be built on the site occupied by the vacant Caldor's and Planet Music Stores and a parking deck. The project would also include new entrances, signs, lighting and security, Chess said.

The county's Development Review Committee, which includes representatives from the departments of planning, environment, recreation and zoning and public works, approved the refinement to the mall's 1991 development plan. A county zoning officer will have to approve variances for changes in parking.

Pub Date: 11/10/98

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